Centre de rencontres spirituelles



      Edited by

      Alphonse and Rachel Goettmann

      Translated by

      Theodore J. Nottingham

      Translated from the original French:

      Regards Inedits sur Graf Durckheim

      Copyright 1998

    Table of Contents


      by Gerhard Wehr


      by Jean and Gisele Marchal


      by Bernard Rerolle


      by Pierre Erny


      by Willi Massa


      by Arnaud Desjardins


      by Jean-Baptiste Lotz


      by Jacques Breton


      by Jean-Yves Leloup


      by Alphonse Goettmann


    GERHARD WEHR:writer, professor at Nuremberg, specialist in the history of religions, he has published several well known biographies, including those of C.G. Jung, Rudolf Steiner, and the primary biography of Karlfried Graf Durckheim.

    JEAN AND GISELE MARCHAL: medical doctors, psychotherapists, students of Graf Durckheim.

    BERNARD REROLLE: Catholic priest, professor of philosophy, member of the Forum-Vaugirard in Paris where he directs the studies of contemplative traditions and the encounter of Eastern and Western cultures and religions.

    PIERRE ERNY: professor at the University of Human Sciences at Strasbourg.

    WILLI MASSA: Orthodox priest, director of the Ecumenical Center "Exercitium Humanum" at Neumuhle.

    ARNAUD DESJARDINS: Student of Hindu, Tibetan, Japanese and Sufi masters, he has written numerous works and heads an ashram at Vers-Pont-du-Gard.

    JEAN-BAPTISTE LOTZ: German Jesuit, student of Heidegger, professor of philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at the Gregorian University in Rome, author of many books.

    JACQUES BRETON: Catholic priest, hermit at Carmel, student of Graf Durckheim. Related to a Zen Buddhist monastery in Japan, he directs the Assise Center at Saint-Gervais en-Vexin. JEAN-YVES LELOUP: Orthodox priest, doctorate in psychology, philosophy and theology.

    ALPHONSE GOETTMANN: Orthodox priest, director of Bethanie, a Center of Hesychast Meditation near Metz in France and the author of several books on Durckheim.


    by Theodore J. Nottingham

    There have been many teachers of life-giving wisdom down through the ages. Each has left his or her mark on humanity, touching the lives of individuals in search of meaning. They have discovered and shared an awareness of reality which is timeless and utterly transforming. Like rare gems, they have each reflected aspects of cosmic truth whose glow has changed forever our understanding of ourselves and of the universe.

    From this blessed line of teachers has come forth in our time yet another master. Karlfried Graf Durckheim, who died at the age of 92 in December of 1988, is a beacon for humanity whose influence has only begun to be felt. Here is a man who brought together the vision of Meister Eckhart, C. G. Jung, Zen Buddhism, and the spirituality of early Christianity. Out of his experience and understanding, he has created a new language for the practical transformation of human consciousness.

    He speaks to us of our two natures, the essential and the existential; of daily life as an exercise for the breakthrough of eternal Being; of the body as an expression of the invisible; of our becoming transparent to the Transcendent. This is not a philosophy or a religion or a new kind of psychology. Karlfried Graf Durckheim teaches us genuine, all consuming transformation, encompassing each moment of our lives. He uncovers the essence of religion as an encounter with the Holy and brings together the summits of Eastern and Western thought. The reader will find gathered in this book striking insights into Durckheim's wisdom from some of his closest students, people who are making their own mark on the spiritual evolution of humankind.

    From a detailed biography to the tracing of the radical implications of the master's teaching, this work offers the keys to understanding not only Durckheim the man, but also the heart of sacred Scriptures, the application of Eastern practices, and the nature and purpose of humanity.


    by Alphonse and Rachel Goettmann

    We have only one Master: "Jesus-Christ, the eternal Master" as Durckheim himself called him. It is written that "in many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son," (Hebrews 1:1) and He still sends us messengers to open the way to Him. Graf Durckheim is one of these messengers. It matters little what we call them, for they are only the multiple faces of the One who is out of time. It is said of the disciple that when he is ready, the master arrives; that can be said of time as well: when it is dark and imprisoned in the horizontal dimension, then one day it cries toward the Transcendent. That day has arrived.

    The last world war has slowly engendered it. Anguished by death and meaninglessness, humanity has risen out of it and has thrown itself by an instinct for survival into possessing, knowledge, power, overproduction. Such a person with the full stomach and the empty heart lacks nothing except happiness. This new market has been filled by sorcerers of well-being who have done great business. Already dreadfully sick, man is further lost in their illusory forms of "liberation." But these frail mirages will eventually disappear, leaving us with an even greater yearning. Just like the sysmic quivers of the planet, these cries from the depths of our being reveal layers which have been completely ignored. But these sediments of the human being, buried beneath the weight of cultures and civilizations, covered over by the artifice of centuries, are now entering into the light of our consciousness. The great convulsions of our times come from within us.

    A voice cries from the core of our being. It is the call of the master. And this call announces new beginnings. But a change of humanity and of its consciousness always takes place in relation to its ancestral traditions. Only in returning to our first genesis can we find a way out of our current impasses, culling from our ancient treasures "that which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, which God has prepared for those who love him." (John 5:17) But for this humanity "in the making" God has need of wisewomen and wisemen who assist us in being born into the "secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification" (1 Co 2:8). The person and work of Graf Durckheim are an answer to this call. Durckheim has contributed to this awakening as few others have in our time. He has done this on two levels: in the secret face to face encounter of the master and the disciple and in the general calling into question of the established system; these two are one and the same.

    Whoever came near to him was struck by the fact that Durckheim did not close himself off into a role: he was himself, he was what he said and wrote. You felt in his presence a fullness, an intensity of attention which made you feel truly alive for the first time. Everything was centered in this relationship in which he became your confident, a companion on the way or your therapist. In this encounter, there was always a density of energy which gave way to the numinous and the inexpressible recognition of the One whom he called "the Great Third One." The silences between master and disciple would then become longer and sometimes Durckheim invited you to simply join him in meditation. Everyone felt unique around him. His blind eyes could pierce into the depths of your soul, as though scrutinizing the roots of your motives; or as though seeking to generate your ultimate decision without which there is no accomplishment. But in every case his gaze was filled with a love which was neither oppressive nor demanding. It seized your inner source, there where we can feel ourselves being reborn; the dialogue took place in your essence, as though all the walls had vanished. Someone else resonated within you, the very mystery of your being.

    When Durckheim rose at the end of the interview and placed a hand vibrant with tenderness on your shoulder or put his hands on your head to bless you, a new joy and peace would invade your entire being. This revelation to oneself and to one's deep reality placed all one's behavior in a new light. You could be an expert in art, consider yourself advanced on the path or possess important knowledge. Yet at the first contact with Durckheim all of that crumbled, as though he had pulled the rug out from under you. The consciousness that you knew nothing was overwhelming! He who has passed through that experience knows what a treasure it is. This is how we recognize an authentic master and this is perhaps the greatest service he can render to the disciple at the beginning. The total loss of security, the surrendering of all foundations provokes a first awakening: the abyss opened within you creates an incredible feeling of freedom, then plunges you into another state of consciousness. You rub your eyes from a long sleep and all of your past studies will now reorganize themselves completely, transfigured by this transforming shock. You will then better understand the unconditional requirement of Jesus to his disciples: "Go, sell all you have, and follow me" (Ga 5:22).

    We can take nothing with us into the beyond. There can only be a mutation of being. Freed from all conditioning, these creative forces will now be able to go to work. The enormous risk of acquired knowledge is always found in easy satisfaction, imprisonment in one's possessions, or falling asleep on one's laurels! Here the Path is work. Those who approached Durckheim for recepies or techniques left with a new way of living. But to live is to work for "to work is to live without dying" said Rilke in agreement with all spiritual traditions. This is of course work on oneself, progress on the Path, and there is nothing for which one should ever stop even for a moment. The human spirit is absolute like the Spirit of God, and as such it has no rest: its field of action is the twenty-four hours of the day. Here is where the sorting occurs: there is the one who indefinitely hesitates on the "path toward the Path," doing exercises here and there in hopes of attaining wisdom one day without too much fatigue or believing that he has already achieved it. And then there is the one who is on the Path by virtue of an irrevocable decision, giving to his being a unique and definitive orientation which makes of every moment the best opportunity for moving forward.

    He finds in everything he does a way to advance internally. This person no longer does exercises, he has himself become exercise. His heart is pure, that is, outside of the multiple. But he pays the price with his blood: "Give your blood and receive the Spirit" states one of those powerful sayings of the Desert Fathers. To be "on the Path" is then synonymous with being a disciple. Durckheim was uncommonly intransigent on this point, though with that indescribable love which so characterized him. But once the disciple had reached the best part of himself, the master gave him his freedom. The requirement was fundamental: either the exercise became constant or there was, according to Durckheim, little to hope for. Amateurism leads nowhere and, as with every master, Durckheim did not waste his time with lazy souls. On the other hand, he who accepted the rigors of a discipline could submit himself completely to him. It is this unconditional obedience (from the latin "ob-audire", to listen) which is the true name of the love of the disciple for the master. Obedience is the core of all spiritual life, it alone can overcome the craftiness of our ego.

    The exercises, always taken up again, cease to be painful and boring, for they become the very presence of the spirit of the master, to which one submits oneself in love. In other words, exercises are a relationship and that is precisely where all that we had acquired before the encounter with the master now enters into a new light. We can now practice the same exercises in a radically new way. This powerful presence of his person in every moment was meant to lead to a new stage, the most important one: the discovery of the inner Master. This is the purpose of true initiation. Instead of becoming attached to the master in an infantile dependency, Durckheim knew how to open the path toward the courage to be oneself and to listen to one's most secret core, there where the "still, small voice" can be heard calling us toward a completely personal development. Durckheim used no power over others, and his exceptional authority came entirely from his radiance. The master here gave way to the witness of a Reality which utterly surpassed him and which flooded his whole being.

    This "Reality" could reveal itself, depending on the student, as Buddha, Allah, Krishna, or a cosmic Force. Durckheim loved you as you were and had such respect for the individual journey that he brought you to discover new depths in your own tradition. This love which was sufficient to itself and utterly free of proselytizing, was the greatest joy of the disicple. The greatest joy for Durckheim came when he felt in the disciple the same faith as his own, when he could bring the disciple into the depths of his own mystery whose radiance he named Jesus Christ. He could then share something of his personal substance and bring forth the secret of his life. For Durckheim, transformation is possible only at the core of our being. The radical modification of humanity and the future of the world depend on the spiritual experience. Human beings are sick in their very being. Wars and revolutions do not bring about fundamental changes. Durckheim "laid the axe to the root" (Luke 3:9) by choosing to deal with the genesis of human beings. We are at a turning point in history.

    As in the Middle Ages, we must once again break through the fog of our degeneration. There will only be a new beginning through a return to the origin and essence of humanity, where a true rebirth can take place. In order to survive, humanity needs a spiritual revolution. It was the becoming of humanity which Durckheim dealt with and he therefore questioned all the institutions which pretend to care for it: the army, school, family, medicine, church and the kind of civilization they sustain. He presented a new way of living and being. All these institutions have much to learn from him, but it is especially the Church, which is meant to be an instrument for the fulfillment of humanity, which must hear his message. Durckheim is therefore infinitely more than a master who has come and gone. His voice remains that of a prophet among us, one of the pioneers of a return to the origins of Christianity. When he shows us how the East can reveal to the West its forgotten roots, this applies particularly to the Church whose roots are properly eastern. Meister Eckhart, Durckheim's great teacher, impregnated by the ancient Tradition, was a powerful revelation for him. His mysticism was a reaction to an invading rational theology which has never left us.

    In communion with this master whose writings he never ceased to study, Durckheim broke through to the essence of the faith of the Fathers of earliest times: all his underlying metaphysical insight is trinitarian and he often said that nothing lives outside of the Trinity. This provides a fundamental vision of a human being who is both citizen of earth and of heaven. These two givens guide human destiny which is a path of transformation where the human being becomes God. Only this becoming justifies the presence of humanity on earth and every institution, especially the Church, which does not respond to the call inscribed in the heart of each being, betrays its mission. Durckheim believed that a God who becomes flesh and blood must be experienced! And every method: the Bible, the sacraments, our own body are first and foremost invitations to this foundational experience. The Church itself is nothing other than a place for rebirth. It is in this perspective that some disciples and friends of Durckheim join together in this book to express, each in his or her own way, how Durckheim made possible for them a new approach to Christianity. The purpose is not to praise a great master but to open the doors for which he gave us the keys and discover the new country which lies beyond them.

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